Monday, September 5th, is the 117th observance of Labor Day in the United States. We can thank America’s labor unions, the real creators of Labor Day, for this national holiday. The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in vast numbers of people leaving the farm to live in cities and to work in factories.
Working conditions then were awful compared to current standards. To improve their lot in life, workers became involved in the infancy of the labor union movement, participating in parades to draw attention to the union effort to improve working conditions for the American worker.
President Grover Cleveland signed the Labor Day Act into law in 1894, declaring it a legal public holiday. We still observe Labor Day 117 years later, but few Americans will attach the importance of the labor movement to the holiday. This is not to belittle the significance of Labor Day, but when Congress created the concept of observing many holidays on Mondays rather than on their actual dates, it significantly reduced the meaning of the events beyond the fact they provide us three-day weekends.
Consider, however, the importance of Labor Day to our country when it was established and declared a legal holiday. Americans were given a paid day off work to allow them to attend and participate in parades and special ceremonies recognizing the labor movement. We still have parades, ceremonies and speeches to recognize the American worker on Labor Day, but most of us will not attend; after all, it is a three-day weekend near summer’s end, perfect for swimming, water skiing and barbecue.
Even if we do think of Labor Day, few will consider the American farmer since few farmers would embrace the labor movement as a practical method for filing grievances. Farmers going on strike in spring prior to planting would result in no crop to harvest in the fall. The consequences would be disastrous.
As an industry, however, agriculture deserves special recognition on Labor Day. While most of us are far removed from farming, it is important to note approximately 20 percent of us have jobs thanks to farming. So, happy Labor Day from the nation's biggest employer – American farmers.